Not Just Heroin
by Ned Wicker
It started on the East Coast and was soon everywhere. Addicts are buying heroin on the street, thinking that it's just heroin, and wind up overdosing and dead. It's heroin alright, but it's laced with Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, and it's lethal. It's not just a trend, it's an epidemic.
Don't know what they're getting
Heroin users never know exactly what their getting. It's not like going to a pharmacy and picking up a prescription for Oxycontin, which in essence is legal heroin in pill form. There are instructions for oxy and you take a specific, prescribed amount, in prescribed intervals.
It's supposed to be controlled. But on the street, there are no rules, no ethics and no morals. If you use and die, so what? The user has no idea what's in the bag he/she is buying, so if the heroin is cut with something else, be it Fentanyl or baking soda, there's no way to tell. Sure, the buyer could be suspicious of the seller, and the buyer might also wind up dead long before using. There are no rules.
Fentanyl is used in hospitals and other highly control circumstances.
Fentanyl is used for patients with chronic pain. To give you an idea of what Fentanyl is all about, it is 80 times more potent than morphine, and like other opiates, it can inhibit breathing. People die because their brain stops regulating their breathing. They just stop.
Because the Fentanyl is so powerful, the dealers have a huge selling point—the buyer can get “super high” and so this is the Cadillac of heroin. Only they don't tell the buyer about the Fentanyl or the risk involved, they just sell the high. Even if the user knows there's Fentanyl in the mix, they don't know how much. As for the heroin, who knows what that is? But it has become popular because the high is intense, and with addiction it's all about getting high.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's last dose didn't include Fentanyl
The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman brought some of this into the light, but the heroin he overdosed on did not include Fentanyl. In some place, such as Vermont, authorities have warned that pure Fentanyl is being sold as heroin. That is an invitation for disaster.
Perhaps some users with money can buy the Fentanyl, but most addicts turn to heroin because it is cheaper than prescription medication. An addict can get a dose for $10-$20, whereas the prescription medications are four times more expensive, or more.
There has also been a crackdown on prescription opiates, and because of that, addicts have a harder time getting them on the street. Heroin is the logical alternative.
The Drug Enforcement Administration calls it “killer heroin” and has put out warnings for law enforcement. Some of the heroin sold on the street has been up to 50% Fentanyl, and first responders, who handle the overdose cases, have to be extremely cautious because Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin. First responders are trained in interventions for overdose victims, but this is a new problem in the mix.
If there is a crackdown on opiate pain medications, where does the Fentanyl come from? Because it is so powerful, it is generally only found in hospitals. Patients can receive pain medication through an IV, or have a patch placed on their arm, or even be given a sucker to put in their mouth when they're in pain, but it's highly regulated.
Still, it finds its way on the street. It's big business and the heroin dealers getting this stuff even give it a brand name, to identify different batches. Authorities report that people call for some batches “by name,” because the dealer has earned the reputation of delivering a potent high.
Many not listening
Despite governmental efforts to educate the public on the dangers of heroin, people do not listen. They foolishly believe a fatal overdose will never happen to them. They arrogantly deny any dangers and they steadfastly deny any addiction.
Of course authorities also have to deal with the rising property crime rate accompanying the rise in Fentanyl-laced heroin. The two numbers go up, side-by-side, crime and addiction.
The game of Russian Roulette played by young people may not end in a fatal overdose, but every purchase of an illegal street drug duels an ever more lucrative international criminal enterprise.
The face of heroin has changed over the years. It's not just for the down-trodden, lurking in dark alleys in large urban settings, it's giving way to cleanly-scrubbed, well dressed, suburban kids with money in their pockets from successful, professional parents.
Those parents, by and large, are clueless to what is going on and certainly naive as to what their children know. Every community has parents who learned the deal too late. Their child is dead. These are kids from “the good homes” and kids who do well in school and go on to college.
These are not intentional criminals, but they do associate with criminal gangs, dealers and all that goes with it. They drive into cities to buy the goods, but increasingly the dealers make the trip to “the burbs” because they know that's where the money is.
Some cities have nearly given up because the streets are filled with dealers, prostitutes and gangs.
Away from home for the first time
I recently heard the story of a grieving father, whose daughter died of an overdose. She was in college and away from home for the first time. She got in with the wrong people and made a terrible decision, to take opiates with alcohol. She went to sleep and never woke up.
I had compassion for this man, because his hurting was so deep and his regrets so profound. But he had no idea what his daughter was doing at college and that's frightening for parents.
Decisions are the key to fighting the rise in heroin addiction and deaths. There are no small decisions in life when it comes to drugs. Nancy Regan said “Just say no.” There was the D.A.R.E. Project and so many others.
Most programs fail. But learning how to make good decisions is never a wasted effort. People have to understand the way to avoid calamity by making the right choice.
I'm going to do what I want when I want
Human nature suggests no matter how clear the warning, no matter how many people die, no matter how nasty and ugly the world becomes, I am going to do what I want to do, so get screwed. That is the truth of addiction.
That is the truth of using heroin, with or without Fentanyl. It's a terrible battle and where I live, an area with successful, buttoned down, clean cut professionals, heroin addiction is at epidemic numbers.
People have always, do now and certainly will always make bad decisions.